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Homeowners Need to live in Safe Conditions, City Says

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The City of Cedar Rapids currently has about 70 properties that have placards reading “Do Not Occupy,” and are classified as unsafe to live in. On Wednesday morning, another property was added to that list.

Virginia Chavez, along with her daughter and son, were told by inspectors they can’t live in their home on the 1500 block of L Street Southwest, until it’s brought back up to code. Police and building services officers were on her property, handling the transition and giving her a chance to get belongings out. But Chavez feels stuck between having to keep her property up to code and having enough money to do it.

“I have no idea what I’m going to do,” Chavez said in tears. “As far as I know, I’ll probably be sleeping in my truck.”

Chavez has lived here since 2005, and survived the 2008 flood.

“All I got was basement water. But it screwed up my front porch, screwed up my garage,” Chavez told us, and she said since then, her home has fallen into disrepair.

Amanda Grieder, the city’s nuisance property abatement coordinator, said Chavez’s home was designated as a nuisance property at the end of May this year.

“The property had several violations starting in 2012, according to our land management system.”

Kevin Ciabatti, director of building services, said the city gave Chavez a two-week notice to fix issues in her home.

“A number of the violations were sanitary conditions, as well as leaking plumbing, pipes through walls and ceilings and some of those things as well,” Ciabatti explained.

Chavez said keeping up with those demands has been difficult. She’s been unemployed since January, and still hasn’t been able to make flood repairs.

“I have $2,200 in fines, because of everything that’s gone on,” Chavez continued. “I have no money to do what I have to do.”

At the time we spoke with her, she felt harassed and victimized.

“Once a month at least, I have someone from the city, ‘this has to be done, this has to be done.’ I’m sorry, they’re picking on the little people.”

However, Ciabatti said until Chavez can show his department a plan to clean and fix her property, she’ll be kept out for her own safety.

“At such time that she would come in and give us a plan of action of repairing the structure, and making it code compliant, we would issue subsequent permission to enters.”

Ciabatti said as of Wednesday afternoon, his department had given her permission to go back in her home to gather belongings. Grieder said several dogs and cats were being kept in the house, but that there’s no limit to how many pets can be kept in a home, as long as they’re being treated humanely and live in safe conditions.

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